Only 3 years after Hitler made a good run of wiping out all European Jews.
Since Palestinians weren’t all exterminated like vermin in the numbers Jews were just 1,000 days before, it doesn’t resonate with a sense of injustice like the Holocaust. Does one ill turn deserve another?
It’s easy to see why Palestinians continue to protest Israel. It’s not history to the Palestinians who aren’t citizens of the countries their parents and grandparents were displaced to.
And Israel has practiced illegally removing Israeli Palestinian citizens (another 140,00 to add to the numbers below) much later than 1948, from 1967-1994, by taking their Israeli travel documents at the border when they traveled, and then denying them reentry, because they didn’t have the travel documents the Israeli customs officials took from them. Our “closest” ally. There is also the issue with the easterly advance of new Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
In 1948, European Jewish settlers in British Mandate Palestine ethnically cleansed some 700,000 Palestinians, depriving them of the country promised them by the League of Nations in 1920 when it recognized Palestine as a Class A Mandate and charged Britain with bringing the new country into existence. (Syria and Iraq were also Class A Mandates, i.e. former Ottoman and Hapsburg territories now thought candidates for independent nationhood). Instead, Israel came into existence, born in a revolt against the British and a civil war with the Palestinians who formed over two-thirds of the population of Palestine.. Palestinians who had lived in what became Israel were forced by the Zionist military north to Lebanon, east to the West Bank, Syria and Jordan, and south into the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Most of those expelled from their homes were civilian non-combatants and some had informal peace agreements with inhabitants of neighboring Jewish settlements. There are now some 12 million Palestinians, given natural increase. About 1.5 million live in Israel and have a precarious citizenship, being only 20% of the population of an avowedly Jewish state. There are about 3.6 million in Jordan who have citizenship and another 140,000 or so (mainly from Gaza) who do not. The some 400,000 in Lebanon do not have citizenship, nor do the 450,000 in Syria. There are about 4 million in Gaza and the West Bank under Israeli military occupation who lack citizenship in a state.
Palestinians thus became a scattered, largely refugee people, lacking a state that would guarantee them basic rights and human dignity. In Lebanon, where I have done interviewing with them, they cannot own property, mostly cannot work, cannot get permission to travel to Syria or Jordan. Their camps have poor security and sometimes, as with Nahr al-Bared, come to host tiny outlaw groups that cause the whole camp to be attacked and destroyed. I talked to an old man in his 80s in Nahr al-Bared, living in UN temporary dwellings because the small city had been reduced to rubble in an attempt to destroy some 50 fighters of Fatah al-Islam. He recalled how in 1948 he was living with his mother in an apartment in Haifa when Zionists came and took it from them. They fled to the Lebanese border where they lived as refugees for a year. Then the UN workers put them on a train and took them up to Lebanon’s Tripoli in the north, settling them in a refugee camp. He had been there ever since. He could not own property. He had never been able to have a job. He took me by the hand and led me to a small room where there were two sick old ladies. “Look at them,” he said. “Is this any way to live?”
Israeli suggestions that Lebanon give them citizenship are an attempt to evade responsibility for the ethnic cleansing; Lebanon did not dispossess them, Israel did. Lebanon has a delicate balance of minorities, and giving hundreds of thousands of mostly Sunni Arab Palestinians citizenship would altogether upset it (it is only a country of 4 million anyway). But mainly, why should they? Why should not Israel have to clean up its own mess? Informed Comment
Something to think about when trying to reconcile our state’s ideals with how our state actually acts. In this case, with the allies we choose to accept with almost no conditions. We rightly feel ashamed at how our predecessors systematically wiped out indigenous populations, but this continues to happen today through the actions of our “closest ally”. Should we be supporting Israel with such few conditions?